Arik Gilbert not with Bulldogs because of ‘personal issues’

LSU tight end Arik Gilbert (2) tries to pull in a pass against Mississippi State safety Dylan Lawrence (24) and safety Tyrus Wheat in the second half an NCAA college football game in Baton Rouge, La., Saturday, Sept. 26, 2020. Mississippi State won 44-34. (AP Photo/Gerald Herbert)

Credit: AP

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LSU tight end Arik Gilbert (2) tries to pull in a pass against Mississippi State safety Dylan Lawrence (24) and safety Tyrus Wheat in the second half an NCAA college football game in Baton Rouge, La., Saturday, Sept. 26, 2020. Mississippi State won 44-34. (AP Photo/Gerald Herbert)

Credit: AP

ATHENS -- The Arik Gilbert experiment doesn’t appear to be going too well for the Georgia Bulldogs so far.

ExploreWeather wins the day as Bulldogs complete first scrimmage

Considered one of the top offseason transfers in Power 5 football this year, the former 5-star tight end from Marietta High School landed at UGA this summer from LSU in part because he wanted to make the transition to playing wide receiver. Georgia, which had lost star split end George Pickens to an ACL tear in the spring, told Gilbert he could play there.

But Gilbert was reported to have missed several practices this week -- the first full week of preseason camp -- and then was absent Saturday for the Bulldogs’ first scrimmage of the preseason at Sanford Stadium. Georgia coach Kirby Smart revealed later that it was for “personal issues.”

“Arik’s dealing with some personal issues,” Smart said during the post-scrimmage Zoom call with reporters. “We love him. We’re thinking about him. We’re trying to help him.”

As for if and when Gilbert might be back with the team, Smart said only, “We hope to get him back soon.”

Smart didn’t shed any light on what kind of issues Gilbert is dealing with. His comments were similar to the ones he issued Sunday when responding to queries about the absence of special-teams coordinator Scott Cochran from camp, though Smart did not say that Gilbert is experiencing mental-health issues.

“When you think about a medical staff like Ron Courson has,” Smart said, referring to the Bulldogs’ director of sports medicine, “he has so much experience in dealing those issues. Our thoughts and prayers are with (Gilbert) right now as he deals with those personal issues.”

Smart mentioned that Cochran was dealing with a “mental health” situation when reports began circulating last weekend that Cochran, a former longtime Alabama strength-and-conditioning coach, had not joined the Bulldogs for preseason practices. On Saturday, Smart was able to talk in a bit more detail about his longtime friend.

“We all deal with issues and problems within our own household, our families, and those are personal things,” Smart said. “We’re a family here, and our players have really embraced that. Our players have embraced the love, the affection, the struggles he’s going through. We love him. We love his family, we love his kids. We’re going to be there and support them and him just like they’re one of us. That doesn’t change.”

Derion Kendrick, another one of Georgia’s high-profile transfers, also was not in attendance of Saturday’s scrimmage. But Smart revealed that the former Clemson All-ACC cornerback had an excused absence to attend the funeral of a close friend.